Slice -- Wednesdays
Alan Thicke Offers Viewers
A Peek Behind The Curtain
By Eric Kohanik
Alan Thicke likes to keep busy. And he has come up with lots of ways to do that.
“I describe it as a 'productive insecurity,'” the 67-year-old native of Kirkland Lake, Ont. jokes over the telephone from his ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif. “You don't wait for the phone to ring. You have to be proactive and you go out and try to create things.
“My background was as a writer. That was the first thing that I was really able to make a living at. Consequently, I've always been able to create some credible pitch or idea that would, at the very least, garner some meetings and put you in the right offices. I never took it for granted that I could be in the gym or by the pool and get 'that call.' I was out promoting and creating. And much of what I tried to do in that vein, fortuitously, got green-lighted. So, it's given me a good life.”
Thicke's accomplishments are numerous, ranging from credits as a writer (Fernwood 2-Night), game-show host (Pictionary) and talk-show emcee (The Alan Thicke Show, Thicke of the Night) to theme-song composer (Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life), sitcom actor (Growing Pains, Hope & Gloria, How I Met Your Mother) and even reality-show participant (Celebrity Wife Swap).
Thicke's latest idea goes back into the world of reality shows – or, rather, pseudo-reality shows. He admits that a show capitalizing on the popularity of his son, singer Robin Thicke, would have been “an easy sale,” but he opted for something different: Unusually Thicke, a series for the Slice network in Canada that was also picked up by the TV Guide Network in the U.S.
Although it does feature cameo appearances by Robin as well as Thicke's eldest son, Brennan, Unusually Thicke is a reality/sitcom hybrid about Thicke's day-to-day life with his third wife, 39-year-old Bolivian-born fashion model Tanya Callau. Rounding out the show's core is Carter Thicke, the 16-year-old son from his second marriage.
“We always knew that we had kind of a Modern Family cast here,” Thicke explains. “We had the older, more reserved patriarch. We had the hot Latin wife, decidedly younger. And we had a cool, envelope-pushing teenager. That was the basis for us saying, 'Well, what could we do with this group that would make sense?'”
According to Thicke, several people were “sniffing around” with reality-show ideas. “We kind of held out for what I thought would be a more original, inventive, challenging format,” he says. “That was to combine the real-family 'cast' with a sitcom format. I thought if we took real stories from our real lives and embellish those in a story-telling format such as a sitcom, then maybe we'd have something that's a little different, a little bit of a hybrid.”
The dialogue in Unusually Thicke is not scripted, but episodes are mapped out to enhance storylines. “We had to plan a lot of scenes in order to tell stories instead of just letting stories happen,” Thicke explains. “We wanted to be proactive storytellers, not passive storytellers.”
Thicke also wanted to set the record straight on his family life. “It really does kind of pull back the curtain on much more of Alan Thicke in real life than Alan Thicke the sitcom actor,” he says. “I think that people who see this family together, some will be surprised. I'm clearly older than my wife and we deal with things and have situations which are not typical. Our age difference does create challenges.
“I like to think that I'm grounded enough from my family history in Kirkland Lake to appreciate where I came from and try to teach my kids that sense of normalcy or decency or gratitude. But we are clearly living the good life here and I think part of the challenge here is how you balance all of those opportunities and influences.”
Unusually Thicke – Slice – Wednesdays
(First published in Channel Guide Magazine -- May 2014.)